A few weeks ago my daughter and I snapped a picture of our three dogs. I’m told it is a one -of-a-kind shot. I posted it on Facebook and it got a gazillion likes. How’d we do it? A few treats, of course, along with luck and a quick tap on the smart phone’s camera button.
This got me to thinking, what drives us to doing these silly things with our four footed companions? Furthermore, what is the definition of a dog person? There are the obvious signs, yes, we all know them and may even find them droll – yet we tolerate them. You know, the doggie tee shirts proclaiming, ‘Dog spelled backwards is God’ or ‘LOVE MY LAB’. Then there are the other accessories of passionate consumer branding — paw print clothing, jewelry, accessories, art and furniture. I admittedly sport a blue paw print tattoo on my left arm and collect dog and wolf statues and framed prints. Lastly, I am positive more than a few of those folks reading this own the most poignant reminders, a loving and loyal friend’s photos, collar, tags, or ashes.
But, this type of physical evidence doesn’t explain, exactly, what factors of personality determine the definition of a dog person. Are we born with a genetic predisposition linked to canine affection? Scientists assert that the domestic dog walked over the Bering Straits land bridge 30,000 years ago and I have read that early dog and early Man started a partnership over 70,000 years ago in other continents based upon mutual survival.
It is no surprise, then, that dogs have made a very successful transition in the post-Industrial Age while other domesticated species didn’t. Instead of trotting beside the horse or buckboard, our canines now ride in our hybrid cars strapped in with a doggie seat belt. Our dogs enjoy the best modern life can provide. We make sure of it, the pet industry rakes in billions.
Maybe, after thinking this over, the question isn’t what a dog person is, but how a dog person is developed? Is it as simple as nature and nurture? Is it as simple as getting a puppy when the kids are little and having them grow up together? I still have a dog breed book and recall memorizing all the major breeds and became fascinated with how each breed was developed. Rare breeds were even more interesting. I learned about the Leonburger, the breed used in a televised movie adaptation of Jack London’s book, Call of the Wild; I wanted a Beauceron, the French version of the German Shepard Dog; my favorite lab dog/pocket puppy is the Papillion, a fox faced stunning black and white sassy pants. In fact, I want them all. I cherish their determination, loyalty, unconditional affection and willingness to please, and, above all else, their ability to trust. This is part of the answer, I think, human beings are beautiful and cruel and yet, other species take us at face value. It is on us to betray that trust. They sense our potential that, to me, at least, is some really heavy shit.